Hi, and welcome to my blog. I’ll be writing about issues, events, and commentary that pique my curiosity, make me wonder what’s going on in some people’s heads, make me smile, or even irk me. They may not relate to business, at first glance, but that’s part of my job — to help you make sense out of nonsense. I’m an analyst, writer, and editor by trade; by nature, I’m a philosopher and seeker of truth.
The truth is rarely pure and never simple. – Oscar Wilde
In particular, I’ll be writing about quality-related issues. I’ve been a practitioner of the dark arts for a number of years. I use the term “dark arts” because…well, frankly because I think too many outside the field of Quality think of it that way. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe most people think of Quality as a necessary evil, at best. They’ll say, “We’re developing a quality management system because our customers require it”, or “We’re in a heavily regulated1 line of business.”
Basically, they’re saying, “We’re doing it because they’re making us.” They’re reacting to external forces rather than practicing quality day in and day out because it makes good business sense. (Know any companies like this?)
Quality is not an act – it is habit. – Aristotle
And it does make sense, for every business. If you look at it from your customers’ perspective, building quality into everything you do ought to be your primary focus. And it’s not just quality in your product or service that I’m talking about, but about quality in your internal processes, as well.
Quality means giving your customers value. Giving them value means meeting or exceeding their requirements, and even anticipating their needs. For you to deliver value, I believe your organization must have or must display the following:
- CHARACTER – It’s easy to lead or manage an organization when the economy and business environment are going well. Just ask anyone involved in the mortgage or investment markets prior to 2009. Leading and managing aren’t at all easy when the economy is in dire straits, like it is now for many of us. The difference between leaders in good times and bad is a matter of character. People of character — real leaders — don’t fall apart under stress. They adapt. They determine the best course of action given the circumstances, and they act, decisively and responsibly.
- COMMITMENT – The best (i.e., most meaningful) type of commitment is the one that comes from within, that sense of obligation to do what is right for everyone – a moral imperative. This comes from character. Your stakeholders want you to be true to your word. They’ll buy into your vision if they see you’re fair and consistent in dealing with others. Your employees will commit to you if you show you’re committed to them.
- CONSISTENCY – You need an overall plan, a mission, beliefs, and a set of clear objectives for your business. Staying true to your mission and beliefs means you’re consistent. Be consistent in how you deal with people, but be flexible and open to change, too.
- COMMUNICATION – Without question, you have to keep the lines of communication open. Open between you and your stakeholders – your employees, your suppliers/vendors, your financial backers, your customers (actual and potential), and even your family and friends. Communicate in a direct and forthright manner. Also, don’t forget that communication is a two-way enterprise. Listen, and learn.
- COLLABORATION – Everyone in your organization is probably capable of providing greater value than you or they realize. We rarely perform close to our capabilities, though, when we keep our ideas, experience, and knowledge to ourselves. Foster a spirit of collaboration in your enterprise — remove the barriers that exist and prevent barriers from going up.
- COOPERATION – To me, the difference between this and collaboration the difference between “action” and “attitude”. Collaboration is the process of working together toward a common goal, whereas cooperation is the mindset that enables it.
- CRITICISM – We must all be open to criticism. By “criticism” I don’t mean vicious, belittling, or personal attacks. Criticism is a reasoned analysis and evaluation. Criticism is based on our personal knowledge, experience, and preferences — it’s an expression of your opinions, not of fact. When you criticize an employee’s work, tell them what they’re doing well, as well as point out opportunities for improvement.
- COLLECTING AND CHECKING/ANALYZING DATA – If you’re not gathering data on your business processes, you have no idea how well – or how poorly – those processes are performing. How can you improve if you’re not measuring? You can’t. How do you know if you’re taking the right measurements? If you’re not analyzing the data, you don’t. If improvement has a “root cause”, this is it.
- CONTINUING IMPROVEMENT – Every person and every process under your command is capable of improvement. Even if your internal signs tell you everything is going well, your customers may feel otherwise. When did you last seek their input? What about your competition? Aren’t they trying to offer more, better, faster, and/or cheaper? What’s your competitive advantage? If you don’t have an answer to that question — and even if you do — you’re a candidate for improvement.
If you take care of what I call “the 9 Cs”, it’s highly likely that you’ll meet or exceed your customers’ requirements, as well as requirements of a regulatory nature. Then, if you decide to seek certification, you really shouldn’t have a problem with that.
Best of luck to you, and we’ll talk again soon.
1Even notice that no matter how few regulations they actually have to comply with or how uncomplicated those regulations are, those companies are always “heavily regulated”, in their estimation.
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